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In late 2007 I started a page entitled bad language, describing words that are either abused or shouldn't exist at all, mainly in the computer industry. But I'm continually coming across words in other areas that either irritate me or are completely inappropriate. This page, started on 24 January 2017, discusses them.

Not all of the words on this page are wrong. Languages evolve, faster than I can adapt. But at least this page gives me a chance to rant about them.

Alternative fact     
A fact is supposed to be incontrovertible. But on 24 January 2017, Kellyanne Conway, a Counselor to the then-President Donald Trump of the USA, responded on air to a question: why did Trump lie about the size of the audience for his inauguration?

Ah, that wasn't a lie. Those were “alternative facts”. I've heard of euphemisms in my time, but that one takes the cake.

football field     
A derived unit of area created by the mathematically challenged. To the best of my understanding, depending on the rules applied, this is an area somewhere between 6,339 sq yds (57,051 st ft, 1.32 acres, 2112 perches, 0.132 sq furlongs, 0.2063 sq mile), easier to understand as 5,300 m², and (26,910 sq yds, 242,188 sq ft, etc.) or 22,500 m², possibly with a gap in between. Even Wikipedia goes along with this nonsense, claiming (as of January 2017) that football fields are “Perhaps the easiest way for US residents to envisage an acre”.

Apart from the extreme pain of the obsolete units used, the values differ by a factor of 4.25 to 1. How can anything that vague be of any use? If I were caught driving 200 km/h in a 50 km/h area, I would be in for the high jump. But the difference is less than the differences in the size of football fields.

I've investigated these values, and they still say nothing to me. 20 ha means something. 1,000,000 ha is 10,000 km², the size of a square 100 km on a side. But what are 100 football fields? I need to go back and convert. What help is that?

What does NV mean? I first came across it on a bag of “garden lime” on 19 October 2018. It proves to mean “Neutralising value”, the equivalent amount of calcium carbonate needed to perform not clearly specified reactions in neutralizing soil pH. More at the diary entry.

range hood
What does the term “range hood” mean to a native English speaker who has never heard it before? Both words are common and have multiple usages: according to the Oxford English Dictionary, “range” has 16 different meanings, including “a row, series, or line”, “rank, class or order”, “the elevation of a gun in firing”, “a fireplace”, “a length or stretch of something”, “a large cleat for securing tacks and bowlines”, “grazing ground for livestock”, ground used for shooting practice,“a number, aggregate or variety of things”, “the distance attainable by a thing”, an area or extent.

“Hood” is in fact 3 nouns, one with 5 meanings related to covering heads or similar, and the other two abbreviations for the American word “hoodlum” and “neighbourhood”. So: what does range hood mean? There are 112 different combinations.

In Australian (and apparently American) building terminology, a range hood is a vapour extractor to be placed over a stove (sorry, cooktop). But why? OED knows this too; apparently it is an American creation of the late 19th century. But wouldn't “extractor fan” or “vapour extractor” be better?

As the name suggests, a suburb is a subdivision of a city (Latin URBS). But in Australia, bureaucrats have decreed that anywhere people live can be a suburb. So I live in Dereel, an area of land about 200 km² in size and with a population of 669, 33 km from the nearest city, but as far as bureacrats are concerned, I'm in a “suburb”—at least until I start asking for some of the normal services you get in suburbs, such as running water and reliable electricity.

The Oxford English Dictionary has multiple definitions for “vanity”, including:

The quality of being vain or worthless; the futility or worthlessness of something.

The quality of being personally vain; high opinion of oneself; self-conceit and desire for admiration.

But in Australia, it means “wash basin”. How can that be? It seems it started in the USA. OED again:

vanity unit n. a unit comprising a wash-basin set into a fixed dressing-table.

The original intention was presumably the table where vain women sat and made themselves up. And from there, it seems, they derive the basin. Isn't it time that people sat up and thought what it all means?

velocity unit
A velocity unit is presumably the same thing as a unit of velocity. But not for Vline, the equally obfuscatory name of the Victorian railway system: for them it appears to be a word for coach, necessary because they use the word “coach” to refer to buses.

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